Heritage charity faces closure

Funding deal sought to save Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust

An open air charity museum located in a World Heritage Site in Devon faces liquidation unless it can strike a last-minute funding deal with its local authority.

The Morwellham and Tamar Valley Trust, which owns 250 acres of land and historic buildings in the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site, needs £250,000 to avoid going into administration.

The trust owes more than £1m to Devon County Council. The council, which moved from Liberal Democrat to Conservative control in June, agreed a further £200,000 loan in July but rescinded that decision earlier this month, saying no more public money would be made available.

In response to the financial problems, the trust plans to make 17 staff redundant, leaving only two and a half posts to ‘mothball' the area and preserve it as a World Heritage Site.

"We are desperately looking for funds from elsewhere," said Michael Stone, chair of the trust.

"I want Devon County Council to sit down at the table with us and other interested parties and stakeholders, such as the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Unesco World Heritage Centre, and try to find a consensual solution.

"They are stakeholders themselves, and it can't be in anyone's interest to let the trust go into liquidation."

The museum, which consists of replica 1860s buildings and a restored port, attracts about 50,000 visitors a year. This figure is down from highs of 150,000 in the 1970s, but visitor numbers have grown again recently.

The trust is negotiating a contract with a major TV company to film a TV series on the site, but says the contract will not be signed unless its financial future is resolved.

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